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Many people are familiar with Montessori at the preschool level. But more and more people are now discovering the benefits of Montessori for the elementary years. If you are new to Montessori elementary education, you might be wondering if Montessori is really that different from traditional elementary programs. Below are a few differences between traditional and Montessori for the elementary years.
In traditional elementary classrooms, the teacher teaches and the child listens. The child is required to memorize and recall information for testing. The child is passive in his learning. In Montessori classrooms, the child learns through hands-on projects and self-motivated, active discovery.
An Individual Approach
In traditional elementary schools, students at every grade level have the same program, i.e. 3rd graders take the pre-established 3rd grade program.
In Montessori elementary, grade levels are flexibly defined within a developmental age range (usually of 2-3 years.) Each child will work with his teacher in his unique progression through the curriculum. Groups of developmentally similar children work on the right projects or lessons for them. This approach recognizes the individual needs of each child, not just their chronological age.
In traditional elementary school, teachers are required to teach an establish curriculum at an established pace. By contrast, Montessori education teaches individuals in small groups based on observable needs. The curriculum does not dictate the pace of learning. Rather the child learns what and when she is ready. The child may work on a lesson as long as needed. The teacher is present to act as a guide or coach.
In the Montessori classroom, the child works to satisfy his own curiosity and inner need for accomplishment. The child’s natural learning pace is honored, allowing the child to be successful at every lesson. The child gains genuine inner confidence through his own achievements.
In traditional schools, the teacher is the one accountable for covering the curriculum. If the children fall behind or are ready to move forward faster, there isn’t a whole lot the teacher can do about it. He or she is responsible for covering a certain amount of information within a specified period of time. In a Montessori school, the child is accountable for her own learning. Children are taught how to track their own progress every day. The child participates in creating her own learning path. Children are involved in choosing their own individual and group projects beginning in first grade. The child learns self-motivation and accountability from a very young age.
Overall, what makes this method of learning so different compared to the conventional form of education we have today, is that the teacher does not stand in front of the class and teach each child the same lesson all at once. Each child is allowed to learn at his/her own rhythm in a way where they feel as though they are in fact not learning or being taught.
Montessori called this way of teaching “preparing the child for success”. The teacher is there to guide your child through small Exercises in which your child will succeed. Through time, the Exercises rise in difficulty but because the progression is so well thought out, the child never feels as though learning is a struggle.